March 7, 1987 |
Is the Constitution the work of human hand guided by God, or just a piece of political workmanship? Laws and systems of laws have been written since man started to seek the security of social compact and are being written today in every corner of the globe at a rate that not even a Philadelphia lawyer can keep up with. But there are laws and there are laws, the same as there are paintings and paintings, music and music. Art museums are filled with works of varied quality, but when you gaze upon The Last Judgment and the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, or upon Raphael's Transfiguration, or upon Michaelangelo's Moses, you are compelled to say they are not just the work of human hands.
December 31, 1986
The John Huston-directed movie at the Visitor Center of Independence National Historical Park has a nice moment near the end when Eli Wallach, the actor portraying Benjamin Franklin, pauses as he is about to climb the stairs at Independence Hall and then turns to the audience to say that, as a result of what happened in Philadelphia two centuries ago, "you have a republic . . . if you can keep it. " For two full centuries that republic has been...
April 26, 1987 |
Americans have always been woefully misinformed about the Constitution and have always treated that document with more reverence than intelligence, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Michael Kammen says. And, adds Kammen, who will be lecturing on the Constitution today at the Central Library, very few people in public life since 1787 have tried to remedy the situation. "With a few significant exceptions, not very many American presidents or members of Congress or Supreme Court justices or any other high elected officials have been moved to inform the public about either the Constitution or critical matters involving constitutional law," Kammen, a history professor at Cornell University, said during a recent telephone interview.
December 22, 1997 |
When politicians complain about the imperfections of the Constitution, I think of graffiti freaks standing in front of the Mona Lisa with cans of spray paint. Every time a new Congress is sworn in, the amenders swarm out of the woodwork waving fistfuls of fixes. Nearly 100 proposals for constitutional amendments await action in the House, a fourth as many in the Senate. In the last Congress, some 250 amendments were introduced. Not counting the Bill of Rights, ratified shortly after the Constitution itself, only 17 attempts have been successful - stout testimony to the sturdiness of it. But they never stop trying.
July 6, 2006 |
Lately, there has been an awful lot of talk about making certain practices that some Americans find offensive unconstitutional. Since such demand seems to emanate chiefly from people who tend to engage in more than the average share of prayer, it raises the question of whether there might be a connection. Maybe these folks are simply under the misunderstanding that prayers all end with the word "amend. " Whatever the basis of their thinking, these amendniks seem to view the Constitution not so much as a guarantee of liberty and justice for all than as one of unquestioning loyalty and mandated morality for all. What they may have forgotten is what happened the last time a crusade rooted in virtue and "values" and driven by that old-time religion managed to capture the Holy Grail of a constitutional amendment.
July 8, 1987 |
There they are, up on the wall, those great explorers, Clark and Lewis. And if that sounds a bit backward, it is. But it can't be helped. There are these two paintings, see, of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark - of Lewis and Clark Expedition fame - and they dominate one wall of the exhibit room in the annex of the American Philosophical Society, 427 Chestnut St. The paintings are hung in Clark-Lewis order because that enables the two figures to...
August 22, 1994 |
Albert Paul Blaustein, 72, one of a handful of U.S. legal scholars who have helped rewrite the national constitutions of Eastern Europe since the fall of communism, died of a heart attack yesterday. Mr. Blaustein lived in Cherry Hill. He was professor emeritus at Rutgers University School of Law, Camden, where he had taught the Constitution since 1954. At the time of his death, he was in Durham, N.C., nearing the end of a three-week vacation of exercise, rest and dieting. The scholar and human-rights advocate had traveled the globe since the 1960s, advising dozens of countries - from Brazil to Fiji to Poland to Russia to South Vietnam and Zimbabwe - on how to write new constitutions.
April 22, 1986 |
Philadelphia put out its invitation to the world last night to come in 1987 to the place where the Constitution was written. Mayor W. Wilson Goode, standing only yards from a bulletproof display of the document in the Rotunda of the National Archives Building, said he and others intend to "fix the national and international spotlight on Philadelphia" for the 200th anniversary of the Constitution. He spoke at an oyster-and-hot canape reception organized by We the People 200, the Philadelphia organization formed to promote the city as the focus of the bicentennial celebration.
November 27, 1986 |
I flew home from the Midwest not long ago, on a clear cold evening in November. We had a black velvet sky above, and a whole showcase of gemstones down below. The plane wasn't crowded. It was a quiet time for thinking. Winging home from a long trip, I seem always to think the same thing: How blessedly fortunate we Americans are. It is a part of our national character that we gripe a good deal, and some of us this autumn have a good deal to gripe about. My travels have taken me to Texas and Louisiana, where the drop in oil prices has affected almost everyone.
September 16, 1987 |
Unlike many scholars and jurists, I believe that the priority of the bicentennial celebration should not be to dwell exclusively or even primarily on the vision of the Founding Fathers or the world of 1787. Of course we should recognize their contribution as a momentous start to what America is and to what America someday must be. More important, however, is the fact that the Constitution has been an evolving document, continuously expanding the freedoms, rights and liberties of all our citizens.